Rugby is very dangerous – and we don’t do enough to protect the kids playing it (Part 1)

Since the rugby association became a professional sport in 1995, its popularity has risen to the point where the 2014 Six-Country Championship has a high average attendance rate than UEFA Euro Cup 2012 or FIFA World Cup 2014.

Now, with the Rugby World Cup in complete change, there’s more attention to the game than ever before. But is it safe?

The British government has selected rugby league and rugby league as two of the five sports it will focus on to increase the standout of the competitive sport in UK schools.

Rugby is a high-impact collision sport in which players must use extreme force to obtain and maintain possession. Injuries are frequent – the probability of players getting injured during a season can go as high as 90% in some studies, depending on the definition used. The majority of injuries, at least 75%, occur during contact or collision, such as handling and scrum. Two-thirds of all concussions occur in the settlement process. With a head injury or concussion per match in community games and popular children’s game concussions, head injury and repetitive trauma are commonplace.

A link has been found between repeated concussions and mild cognitive impairment in young adult male rugby players and has been linked to depression, dementia, and poorer fluency.

Researchers also found evidence of a link between repetitive concussion and traumatic encephalopathy – a progressive degenerative brain disease found in people with a history of repetitive brain injury. Has been linked with Parkinson’s disease and other neurological conditions. Degradation can bring about memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, and eventually memory loss.

Given that children are susceptible to trauma like concussions and often take longer to recover, the government’s plan to increase participation in rugby in schools, in the absence of supervision and prevention systems. Injury prevention (including prevention and rehabilitation), is of concern.

Under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Government, Children have an obligation to notify and protect children from the risk of injury. As a signatory to the convention, the British government needs to ensure the safety and effectiveness of sports – in particular, the established injury monitoring and prevention strategies, before proceeding with targeting plans sponsoring and increasing participation in a high-risk collision sport such as rugby.